Friday, 31 May 2013
Edition Wars Poop Slinging
To celebrate 30 000 hits I wrote a blog on editions and why I mostly dislike them and the the born again fanboys. Blogger ate it. Had a whole written blog vanish - took hours. Dont get it. It was me bitching about editions of various games, ragging on companies and design stuff. The Internet gods didn't approve and killed it. By suggesting Pacman and Tiamat are the parents of Pokemon in my new setting went too far.
So here again but ill be more polite.
In normal books like academic ones editions reflect a previous ed sold out. Sometimes they update references and reflect some new discovery. Rarely does the entire guts of a work get changes or do i feel such editions were cash cows.
In gaming, editions split and divide fans and weaken the hobby. In 80s the UK/White Dwarf tradition was steal from anything even other systems and genres because all content was so rare. White Dwarf fan ethos would stick a traveler map in Marvel or even DnD, steal monsters from any game and sometimes would include multi stats for various systems, but mostly such multi stat books wasted space. Try to sell me a new edition now and ill probably quit your line. Paladium for all faults has remained the same and just makes another world or setting. Actually if there was a edition dedicated to each setting I would forgive. EG - Cthulhu 20s ed, Modern Ed, 1890s Ed - Dark ages did this and was great. DnD Ravenloft, Greyhawnk, etc editions would interest me more.
As I stopped following comic character based titles and now follow writers and artists long ago, i will do same for RPGs now. Its a bit like film remakes - just saw ad for Tommorrow people and unsure if Twilight inspired crap based on my favorite kids show of 70s. Computer games on and off most of my life. We all quit arcades early 90s when every game was a martial arts car or first person simulator. Girls stopped playing (mostly played puzzle/maze/platform games) so we stopped going. I got back into pc games last few years but of late nothing has interested me so i blog instead till next fallout. Having to be online has made me lose interest in pc games too. Lego used to be generic now sets for everything actually make it less imaginative - but Im still tempted to go collecting - is having kids worth it just to justify lego?
Comes down to taste really.
So here is list of my biggest edition crimes
Unnecessary Change for Own Sake
Mostly editions to me break the rule of if it aint broke dont fix it. There is some pressure to modernize to keep up with players for tournaments. I was interested in writing for RPG companies once and would get latest rules to write in latest mould but now id rather write system neutral stuff. Editions change for sake of change (and money) and they are becoming more frequent. Rick Priestly the daddy of 40K even complained a new edition was made according to miniature products. Lots of stuff in my 1st ed 40k no longer in universe from poor sales like zoat, squat, beastmen.
The best products ive purchased last year were from independent self published and often by bloggers. DCC one exception but sadly i got it for art (id play it but nobody interested and i wanna play not dm). Some old dead TSR products are supported by fans with more respect than companies have for fans of current products (Star Frontiers and Marvel games). I admit I am older, more inflexible and unwilling to learn more rule systems so changing system so much its a new game is a loser for me. Its great to correct mistakes and make more elegant mechanics but they could all be summarized for old timers on a few pages.
If you add a character option and everybody uses it to keep up there is something probably wrong with your add on. New skills, spell, classes. Saw huge survey on DnD races - elves dropped to much less use in favour of new races, dwarfs same as ever. Never seen a halfling played in almost 30 years of gaming.
I have some peculiar tastes i admit but I have got a PDF then found real book and not liked touch of paper stock. I can only blame me for this I guess. Carcossa for all its supposed naughtiness (and pro slavery) is the nicest to touch rpg book ever.
Thick repetitive borders that reduce page surface area to pad out book. Too big fonts I find unpleasant - more for bload than utility. Texturized pages with fake stone or colour actually reduce readability and make harder to find stuff. I used to find things in AdnD by the white spaces around spell and monster descriptions. Rule books are like text books and need to be referenced easily and clutter doesn't help. Some visual disabilities couldn't read grey pages in Ares section of Dragon in 80s. The horror of what we get now. Anything making readability difficult is a gravestone on your back. Actually I find Games workshop and 40K books use these FX well.
Full colour printing being wasted with no art bugs me too.
I buy mostly PDFs now and if I like hard copy ill grab it too. Chaosium PDF's poor bookmarking - re release old TSR stuff very well done.
While bad art puts me off some games even Dover pictorial stock is preferable to bad art (Dragon and old Chaosium used all the time). Art can help to break up text. Gurps 3rd ed had great sidebars. I like 80s chaosium and RQ3 becuse they feel like usable text books as far as layout goes. Some possibly good books without spaces to rest eyes are boring to read. Late TSR started having less and less quality interior art on some product lines - Buck rogers interior art didn't help it.
Id rather a quality perfect bound soft cover to a design bloated hardcover on a minor game supplement. Id rather buy clean functional book and save over design for a atlas or art type book or sparingly used in some sections. Fake Osprey militarily book would make a good supplement.
Edition Crimes Casebook
So here are some games I followed since 84-ish. It isn't just the rules that killed games for me but certain supplements were the final nail.
Storm bringer - 1st ed ws great game. A later perfect bound ed with great art changed demon rules to a point system lifted from superworld. I cant think of a less chaotic way to make chaos demons. Point system for demons of Law would make more sense. Seemed contrary to BRP to graft a champions system onto rules. What really killed for me was one product: Rogue Mistress. Why not do book on ship in Sailor on Seas of Fate novel? Everything about this seemed tacky and non Moorcock. One of 2 products that stopped me collecting all chaosium stuff.
Call of Cthulhu - 1st box set is one of best games ever. I still have a mint one. I have a games workshop edition hardcover (with necronomicon dust jacket) I still use, good art. I have a 3rd ed volume which includes gatefold size chart and includes some extra rules and stats from modules which is nice. I blinked and bam saw 6th ed leather bound which on getting home read of upcoming 7th ed. I felt ripped off. One modern change is increase in skill points. This slows character generation and makes characters care slightly more about fate. Do you hear me - modern COC is soft!
The module that stopped me collecting all: Orient express. I threw out adventure and kept historical stuff and npc book. Whole adventure felt more clive barker than HPL. Obsessed with flayed skin, flesh and gore. Too many monsters all working together is silly. Increasingly adding real mythology to cannon like Bast, Baba Yaga etc weakens mythos. Premise is all human religion and myth is false - it's horror for atheists not syncretinistic new ager everybody is right love in. Lilith for example is based on a mistranslation from ancient Iraq over a century ago and medieval occultism - really doesn't suit HPL or weird fantasy even. Lilith is now regarded as a class of demon not individual according to Mesopotamian modern scholars - art claimed to be her no longer is. Leave Christain and Jewish mythology out of mythos. Cthulhu has become mainstream, the horror once mostly imagined is now a over exposed joke. Other companies doing more interesting things with mythos and even crept back into DnD. Orient express box set (box disintegrated instantly i still have all others) was the other product that made me drop collecting everything Chaosium. I got several PDF's of late that should have used stock art because images look comical. I wont get hard copies. Handouts overdone and interferes with readability. I like old handouts anyone could read. I cant read overworked modern ones. Azathoth did good job with typed and hand script versions. I did enjoy the big monster compendium and the keeper companions alot. Shame old city books and some adventures hard to find. Arkham county books one of best sandbox games ever (one adventure book from this i never saw and expensive online and no bootlegs even).
BRP: BRP is great. Only problem is easier on players than GM. Skills or a sheet for every major NPC a hastle. Why not use Ringworld mechanics for a generic SF system? It was great game. Cthulhu in space most promising to me now. Never like super power rules but I did play Superworld. Shame worlds of wonder never did more. It could have been gurps.
RQ I played from 1st to 3rd, but mostly 3rd. The compiled book in early 90s had good errata. I think 3rd was most perfect game ever. I played Glorantha, Dark ages, and my own settings. Replaced DnD for me for 15 years. The online sorcery rules and content was better than anything official added in 90s. Sandy Paterson's sorcery rules were awesome. Good to see Mongoose stuff and expand history but changed spirit magic. Also changed pole arm damage. This point seems petty but many games doing this. Im sorry a naginata beats a katana for speed and force any day. Little points that made me not interested in using as was. Deviating from BRP (now closer to RQ3 than current RQ) is sad. Id look at RQ6 and even legend versions of game but i wont snap up instantly because they are new. I should buy BRP book though. A small note there are multiple versions of viking and samurai products for RQ and all different, ignoring all the good done before. A bit sad. I know gamers who never used glorantha (but used rules) or avoided RQ just because of Ducks.
DnD Cyclopedia edition most under rated and the one im holding out for most as mine was stolen by GARY (also took RQ Vikings book you shit). 2nd Ed i didn't mind and i liked first few guides like the fighters one which was a must have. The historical ones fine but the Necromancers Guide made me lose interest in DnD. Made me realize they were no better than DM's I personally knew and pumping out trash for cash. I wont trash talk new DnD too much but I liked most TSR design and art and have hated everything Wizards have done. I find too new age, tacky, overblown. I find layouts cluttered. Too much monster information and too many monsters. Turning spells into feats was insane. Adding new mini systems to replace older ones was bad too - I like Oriental adventures martial arts and NWP not modern skill systems. In my rules thief skills are just NWP and thieves get the most and are the best at skills and learn new weird skills every level. I prefer a few classes with kits and options to classes for everything. Books spent too much time on classes (d20 stuff especially) when expanding on kits idea was better. Did they really playtest these classes at all levels? Being obsessed with grids, abilities that only work with grids have halved combat time or numbers of encounters per session and created other problems. Too board game oriented.
What later DnD editions did right. Well I do have some nice things to say. Sorcerer is gold. More classes changing a few basics was a better way to go. Ive considered an Alchemist based on Dragon article that really just alters spell casting mechanic slightly. I think 4th ed then pushed sorcerer from core book to later book sadly. I like the idea of generic monster kits that transform standard monsters. Should go further with this and just stat up humanoids to giant size and basic animals based on size and diet then add kits. The 52 x one page DnD rules here https://docs.google.com/file/d/0BxxIbZkFu4wdZkVLbnlkVFNvcVU/edit has done things more to my taste - monster stats fit on encounter tables. Encouraging more unique one offs rather than new species (especially sentient ones), is a bit silly. Variations of basic monster like Mutant Future is better. But concept of slapping fire elemental template on a giant = fire giant is preferable to endless monsters. I have not used a official monster book in years in play even though I like monsters. Hit table to thaco to ascending AV has been progress. Less table browsing better. Castles and Crusades was almost my choice DnD but NWP was biggest rift for me. I appreciate Pathfinder and Wizards deserve Pathfinder success. It has better design and plays with my design dislikes and yet does it well.
Booster cards that reward richer players are an appalling idea. I use playing cards and a one page table. I am as repulsed by card games as I am for gambling and heroin. I had a friend who lived off Magic the gathering ripping off other players and selling cards for several years.
Gygax said modern game too superheroic. Art seems very anime and console game inspired while I like 70s war gamer gritty realism - at least in art. Death doesn't seem appealing to modern gamers so mechanical kill proofing favoured over DM story telling and Judgement. The first few levels of DnD are my favorite. Of late I realized 1st level has a Cthulhu type fear and paranoia. Then you get tough enough you can take on rooms of monsters and laugh. I like the feel of this progression.
Simplicity of old games has me playing DnD and considering for other genres like SF because I only need 2 stats for monsters. Writing character sheets on every monster in RQ not fum which is why Monster Colosseum was actually undeserving of worst gaming product of all time. Monster book from set is kept with my players and GM books as standard. One RQ GM I gamed with had stack of NPCs as thick as a phonebook poor sod. Too many situational abilities a problem, espe ialy if ihave too look up effects.
Gammaworld - Poor game has been left in village stocks of gaming and been molested by every passing system that came its way. First Two fine DnD weird science supplements. Some others OK and had a few new ideas. Kids seem to enjoy 4th ed but only as wacky alternative to DnD. Talk of wacky character combos but actually a limited number of combos and I heard mention of yeti cocroaches too many times it lost any semblance of innovative. I would throw rocks at designers if I could. Game being silly fun has ruined forever. 2000AD comics has humour and silly things but always played with a straight face. A great game for satirizing modern world is to create logical absurdity and leave in ruins. Im all for funny games but they work better as light weight. Toon or teenagers from outer space would work better than 4th ed DnD if this is the feel of what they wanted. Even so I stole some ideas from current Gamma Worlds like a class of unstable mutant that changes looks and powers daily. Darwins World as a grittier Gammaworld campaign and no wonder it stole so much market - good it deserves it. A d20 based series of hardbacks of gammaworld were pretty good and even justified some of games silliest things like clothing eating monsters. Did spread core ideas over a few too many books.
Others - If only traveller spent more time on new content than revising same old stuff. Id like to see FASA traveller stuff reprinted. Gurps i have never played yet I had most of books up till 3rd edition. The world books are some of best of type ever. I miss a monthly new world to plunder. The new ones feel unappealing layout wise and wasted full colour printing. I just dont find appealing. Warhammer I mentioned earlier. I like Brit grit but long ago lost interest in corporate GW and trashing earlier gold. White Dwarf gone from generic RPG mag to house preview organ to just a catalogue. The 40K RPG is promising and flirts with my dislikes but comes out on top. The bloat comes more from ridiculous text detail about everything. As a GM i wouldnt want to remember or have players that did.
What are we doing here anyway?
Part of gaming for me is a creative collaboration between publisher framework, me and my players. While creativity is not lacking in gaming the idea of home made rules and settings seems to be a negative to gamers I meet. Leaving gamers room to move is a big problem an even intimidating to some gamers. Glorantha was intimidating till I had read dozens of books. Crucible of the Herowars box set was the final door opener to me. I still meet people intimidated by this. Forgotten realms disinterested me when players read more than me. I have been accused of having an imagination so your welcome to use anything of mine if you dont feel so lucky. Imagination needs exercise and that's why Im a gamer.
What Would I Like
Id like to see system neutral game and monster books and world books with stats in separate books or even online. Gurps seemed good at making stats non intrusive and conversion to dnd or rq was easy (income tables in gurps gold i still keep gurps horror one in my CoC folder. I mostly buy and read systems I never play because fictional worlds described in non fiction style is something I like to read more than fantasy fiction. Non gamers could enjoy too and you would have to throw out if rules changed.
This is more about my taste, me becoming older and inflexible than the gaming world really. Im not anyone's target group anymore. I have more faith in Blogger blogs and the self published creations from it's contributors than any company. Big game companies could all close tomorrow and I wouldn't care. Cthulhu and RQ3 Dark Ages and Greg Stafford Glorantha opened me to reading real history and mythology. Three degrees later Ive read half the great books of the west and several hundred penguin classics. Reading this helped me in real world more than any game product ever could. Robert Graves Greek Myths, Joseph Campbell, Black and Green "Gods Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotaimia", Kitto, Homer were better investments in time and money than any fanboy product ever could.